The 2015 Chevrolet Trax is a compact crossover built on the General Motors Gamma II platform, which it shares with the Buick Encore that's been on sale in U.S. for a couple years now. The reasonably priced Encore has been a star, and General Motors will now be putting even more mini-SUV fans into its even more-reasonably priced Trax when the model debuts in early 2015, though it has been on sale in Canada for over a year now. The U.S. model debuted last week at the New York auto show.
Sharing more than just a platform with the Encore, the Chevy Trax will also receive its 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec inline-four engine, good for 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The Trax will be offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive form, with a six-speed automatic transmission standard. The pint-sized SUV will be available in three trim levels: LS, LT, and LTZ, and it will be offered in 10 exterior colors including brilliant-blue metallic, orange-rock metallic, satin-steel metallic, white-pearl tricoat, black-granite metallic, summit white, silver-ice metallic, ruby-red metallic, deep-espresso metallic and blaze red.
When the Trax debuts in the U.S. in early 2015, it'll also feature an upgraded infotainment system complete with OnStar 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, enough for seven wireless devices. The Trax will also offer a 7-inch color touchscreen; Siri Eyes Free voice-command technology will also be available. A rearview camera will be standard on all models, which is a must in a vehicle with a tailgate window this high. SiriusXM will be an option, in addition to a GPS-enabled downloadable app-based navigation system.
The Trax will offer 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space, 10 airbags, including side-curtain, knee, and thorax bags, and a 60/40 split fold-flat rear seat, in addition to a front passenger seatback that folds flat. The latter feature will give owners the option of transporting items up to eight feet long, so a midsize kayak should fit even if you don't opt for a roof rack. Remote start will also be available as an option.
Optioned in base LS trim, owners will receive cloth seats, though the LT trim will offer a few more creature comforts, including upgraded cloth/leatherette seats, in addition to leatherette seats found in the LTZ trim. Just three interior color options will be available across the three trim levels: jet black, jet black/light titanium, and jet black/brownstone.
What's It Like to Drive?
We got to spend some time in a Canadian-market Trax that Chevrolet brought down from Ontario, driving it along the back roads of upstate New York, not too far from Monticello Motor Park. The Trax we drove was outfitted in midrange LT trim coupled with all-wheel drive, which meant cloth, manually adjustable seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch aluminum wheels and cruise control, in addition to some minor goodies like a rear cargo mat, a six-speaker audio system and an infotainment system with SiriusXM radio.
Driving the Trax, there was virtually no hint that we were behind the wheel of an all-wheel-drive car. The chassis felt zippy, and the Trax swallowed up imperfections in the road with uncommon poise. The steering stayed straight and refused to get into a tug of war with the driver when going over a serious potholes. Since we managed to find a few terrible B-roads just to see how the Trax would do, we were pleasantly surprised that the suspension declined the invitation to get flustered and transfer its unpleasantness into the cabin when traveling over a long series of bumps.
The Trax also comported itself well in turns, much better than we would have expected from the rather short (100.6-inch wheelbase) and tall compact SUV. So no, this isn't the Tracker that your college roommate had 15 years ago. The Trax we drove felt ready for emergency maneuvers, and it never felt like it was close to getting out of control even when making some rather tight turns on wet roads.
Tall SUVs that are short in length have historically suffered from a hit parade of handling issues, and we were pleasantly surprised to find most of them absent in the Trax. Even though the soft suspension was nicely muted, the Trax never felt especially floaty or wobbly at speed.
The 138 hp from the 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four never gave any indication that it needed to work hard, and the six-speed automatic felt nicely geared. On paper, the weight and power characteristics might suggest the Trax would always be a step behind everything else on the road, but this never materialized and the trucklet more than held its own. Driven within reason, its power should prove adequate.
A nice architectural element proved to be the thin, forward-placed A-pillars and front door quarter windows, which did a good job of preventing the blind spots one sometimes encounters in SUVs and minivans at intersections and pedestrian crossing zones. The cab-forward layout also served to create an impression of a bit more interior space.
Rear seat space was comparable to a Chevrolet Cruze in terms of room and comfort, which is adequate for a compact SUV with these exterior dimensions. The only low points were a few hard plastics here and there, especially around the shiftgate, though perhaps this sort of thing is to be expected from a no-frills mini SUV.
Do I Want it?
Simply put, the Trax is a Buick Encore with a more spartan interior. Given the Encore's success in the U.S. it was only a matter of time before we got a Chevrolet version of the already affordable mini SUV. Chevrolet has been on a small car binge during the last couple years, and the company is fortunate to have this platform in its global lineup that it can introduce (relatively) quickly to the U.S.
The Trax will make a lot of sense to a lot of buyers, many of whom will probably be first-time buyers of new cars. If you can live without the luxury-ish interior of its Buick sibling, or simply don't care for that sort of thing in a small crossover, then the Trax will make good sense, especially with the savings you'll get when you embrace the fact that they're essentially identical vehicles underneath.
Chevrolet hasn't released pricing info for the Trax. The 2014 Canadian-market Trax starts at approximately $16,955 converted into U.S. dollars, plus destination, which is expected to be the neighborhood where the U.S. market Trax will start. The Encore currently starts at $24,950, but the price climbs to the low-$30,000 range in top trim with all the boxes checked. Those are two very different price ranges, and fans of the Bowtie brand will probably know a bargain when they see one.
If you like the looks and packaging of the Trax, now might not be a bad time to read our review of a 2013 Buick Encore Premium and decide which of the interior trimmings you don't really need.
On sale: early 2015
Base price: TBA
Drivetrain: 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four, FWD, AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 138-hp, 148 lb-ft of torque
Curb weight: FWD: 2,805 lbs AWD: 3,208 lbs
Fuel Economy: TBA
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